- The final moments of Sears Canada in photographs
Dr Rose’s French Arsenic Complexion Wafers. Friedr. Bayer and Co Heroin. The Philadelphia Poultry Marker. Farm-Master White Leghorn Chickens. Brown’s Vegetable Cure for Female Weakness. The Super Sniffer Geiger Counter. The Remington Model 512A Bolt-Action Rifle.
That’s right. Sears had all the essentials.
After migrating north in 1953, Sears ruled Canadian retail for decades. From the 70s to the early 80s, 90% of North Americans reported shopping at Sears regularly. But time was not kind to Sears and handy firearms and delicious over-the-counter smack were gradually replaced by clothing for badly dressed old people that no-one, not even badly dressed old people, wanted.
Sears was top heavy. Too much stock. Too much floor space. Their colossal stores heaved with overpriced suitcases and ugly furniture. Young women who would never shop at Sears themselves stood at nausea-inducing perfume desks waiting for that elusive old lady with too much money and no sense of smell. There was even a cobbler, just like in the good old 1800s. If you were lucky, a Dickensian street urchin with tuberculosis might jump out and shine your shoes for a shilling.
A gradual decline throughout the 90s and 00s quickly turned into freefall through the 10s. Between 2014 and 2016, Sears Canada made a cumulative net loss of $727.7 million. In the first quarter of 2018 it made a net loss of $144.4 million. In 2015, Perry Caicco, a retail analyst at CIBC World Markets claimed Sears’ only value was in its real estate, saying “In our calculation, the retail operation is basically worthless at this point”.
Sears was doomed. Terminally bankrupt, the cancer eating Sears was geriatric bathroom fixtures; its avocado green kitchen worktops had gone malignant. Extinction was inevitable.
On Sunday 14th January 2018, Sears Canada closed its doors for the final time. The troubled retailer had announced it would be liquidating its remaining 131 Canadian stores the previous October, having already closed 54 stores that summer. 12,000 jobs would be lost.
It was raining as usual in North Vancouver as I approached Capilano Mall, the final resting place of one of Canada’s last Sears. The lights were still on, but there was no-one home. Sears had died.
I decided to go inside for one last look at this strange relic from a forgotten age…